Helmets on Swing Sets? The evolution of protective gear and keeping kids safe.

The other evening, my 9 1/2 year old, highly active, fun loving daredevil of a child took a fall.  From our swing set that was only installed 48 hours earlier.  It was pretty bad, he was swinging high, and on the front approach he slipped off, flipping forward and taking the blow to the top of his head.  Luckily, he says his knees hit the ground at the same time.  I heard the thud, though my back was turned and I didn’t register what happened until he was screaming.  The fact he jumped up assured me that his spine was ok, but I was worried immediately.

We got lucky.  Aside from a severe headache for 2 days, and some mild nausea, he did not get seriously hurt.  I know because we called the after hours doctor.  Twice.  I slept with him that night to make sure he was ok, and to keep him on advil through the night.

Now I’m nervous.  I haven’t let him back on the swings just yet.  I know his fall was a fluke; but my fear (all parents have at least one major fear), well my major fear is head injury.

Just a week before we were ice skating.  I make my kids wear helmets.  Yes, they look ridiculous, and no, I never wore one as a kid.  But knowing that son #1 is a daredevil speed skater, I take heart in knowing that even professional speed skaters wear helmets.  Kid #2 is just the family klutz.  And kid #3, it was his first time skating and I expected lots of falls.

But how have we as a society evolved to a point where our kids wear helmets when ice skating?  I was not the only parent making the mandate.  Certainly our society has embraced helmets for biking for a long time, and I’m pretty much a stickler on that front, as well as when scootering or skateboarding.

But, isn’t the chance of serious damage GREATER from a fall from high up on a swing compared to other activities where helmets are socially acceptable?  How ridiculous is it to want my kids to wear their helmets on the swing set?  (Very.) Even though I was scared beyond belief with his fall, I can not allow myself to become that overbearing.  And my instinct that this isn’t a good idea is backed up by people who know safety!  The CPSC recently wrote a blog post saying that helmets do not belong on the playground, as they pose risks like choking.

So, how much protection is too much?  I’ve seen parents yell “no running!” while their kid is at the playground (seriously) and there are parents who hold their kids across the monkey bars long after the skill has been mastered.  Finding our own rules, knowing how much to protect our kids, I think that is every mom’s gut check.  I’d like to think that I have not held my kids back from their own exuberance, but have just required protective gear so I can breathe easier while they be the boys they want to be.

But that doesn’t mean that my heart won’t be in my throat while the kids soar high, and it doesn’t mean that I won’t say “be careful” as they head out to swing set from now on.

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